Ray Negron's Playball Weekly Blog

The Death of the Mambo king and a Bronx Legend

I have known of Tony Melendez since the 1970s. He was a terrific baseball player in the neighborhood with aspirations of playing in the big leagues. He was an even better disco and salsa and mambo dancer. To me he was the Mambo King before the making of the great movie The Mambo Kings which stared Armand Assante and Antonio Banderas.

George Steinbrenner once told me that there is a very fine line between prejudice and jealousy. It has been a very important statement that has helped me understand many scenarios in my life. Due to a situation one night after having a great time Tony was approached by some jealous and undesirable people, he was shot seven times and left for dead. Not Tony Melendez, He survived but was crippled from the waist down and instead of feeling sorry for himself he spent the last twenty five years of his life on his wheelchair teaching and coaching kids the great game of baseball. Tony was such an inspiration to his kids in the Bronx that players like Alex Rodriguez and The great Movie star Richard Gere would give Tony some funding and actually come to Tony’s field to participate in all star games. The Yankees helped Tony and the United Youth baseball league for years.

Tony died yesterday and I am extremely sad about this because he was a wonderful person but I will thank god forever because Tony doing what he did all those years with those kids literally saved lives and gave these kids direction. The first little league that my son Ricky played for was Tony’s league. It meant the world to me because it was in the Bronx where I was born and it was with the great Tony Melendez who always thought of everyone else before himself.

Tony , my only regret was that I never told you that I loved you. God bless you in baseball heaven.

Remember Tony, You always told me that you believed in forever, so life was just a one night stand. Thanks brother.

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